Tuesday, June 28, 2005

(Il)legal Experience

One rite of passage in the legal profession I have always found absurd to the point of insulting is the internship. (Okay, so it's definitely not the only rite of passage that deserves that title, but I'm sure I'll hit on the rest at some point.) For those of you who don't know, the internship is the last acceptable form of slave labor, and by accepted I really mean encouraged. I think that, logically speaking, the idea of requiring people who are already paying $50,000 a year for school to work for free is pretty much indefensible. Even worse than the standard internship, though, are the ones where you actually pay your school for a credit for working for free. That way, not only is the employer getting free help, the school actually gets to make a buck, too! Genius! The only way people can make this idea sound more like charity and less like Amistad is by relying on everyone's favorite euphemism: EXPERIENCE.

I'm sorry, but experience? Really? Is that the best everyone can come up with? Only law students - and future law students - are dumb enough to fall for that one. Can you imagine a prostitute giving it away for free because she's getting good experience? What about a drug dealer? Or, to keep it legal, a secretary? I don't think so!

At my current firm, there's a guy who is an "intern" named D. He seems to mostly concentrate on the clerical end of things, and the other day I idly wondered whether they paid him for his efforts. Today paychecks were distributed, and he got one. Of course he got one! Silly me. Why the hell would anybody choose to spend a perfectly good summer filing and making copies if they weren't getting paid? Unless...you throw a little (non-legal) Internet research into the mix and then, lo and behold, you have N, an unpaid college intern getting EXPERIENCE. Never mind that my cats could do what she does (and given their affection for pretending to type, often do pretty much exactly what she does). Never mind that she is not learning a single skill that will help her, either as a law student or as a practitioner. Never mind that she could work at Kinko's doing the same shit and at least make minimum wage.

My first summer, I worked for free for a firm doing exactly the same stuff the 2Ls were paid (very poorly) to do. Memos, motions, blah blah. I would have been okay with the arrangement, since I was getting EXPERIENCE and had been told that no one was making any money that summer, but then I looked more carefully at my billing program. Hmm. It seemed that the firm was billing me out to the clients for a tidy sum! Let me get this straight! Not only do you not pay me, but you are actually making money off the sweat of my brow? Why, in that case, why not hire ten interns? A hundred? What a sweet deal! How come the Professional Responsibility code doesn't speak to this ?

Look, I'm not saying that there are no benefits to a legal internship. And I'm just some dumb kid out of college with my whole life to pay back my loans. But since the average age of law school entry is going up, and I have friends who are working for free this summer and actually have families (and better grades than I do), perhaps it's time to reconsider this system. Or maybe I should have just been a drug dealer.

Monday, June 27, 2005

I Dream of Greenwich

This weekend, fearing another set of hot, nasty days spent bored in my apartment with my inadequate air conditioner, cursing the evil bar exam that has stolen my boyfriend from me and the other cities/countries/boyfriends who have stolen my friends, I decided to bring the fun to the burbs and escape to greener pastures. (Well, I doubt there's been a pasture with real live animals anywhere near Greenwich, Connecticut in about 200 years. The only animals I observed were small white dogs on Louis Vuitton leashes, a phenomenon I had foolishly concluded was endemic to the Nick and Jessica Show, but has apparently migrated eastward.)

Greenwich, the promised land. As the Preppy Handbook pointed out, we live in a free country, and in this day and age anybody can be from Connecticut! It's green. It's beautiful. People wear Lilly Pulitzer, men wear pink shorts and seersucker blazers, no one sweats, and kids are named Lulu and Buffy. It's got shopping, restaurants, and - count 'em - FOUR Metro North stops. What is not to love? I mean, this is a town that pays people to direct traffic in 95 degree heat, rather than installing those gauche traffic lights. Those colors - they're just so . . . bright. Tacky, really.

But apparently not all in Greenwich is sunshine and light. This weekend, my dear friend L and I encountered an example of Greenwich's dirty, ugly side. Silly us, we thought that we could go to the beach using her grandma's beach pass. I mean, her grandma has lived there since 1930, belongs to a yacht club, is a bona fide Christian, and so on - but that was not enough to sneak past the Greenwich Gestapo. No, no.

L and I walked up to the little booth prior to boarding the ferry to the beach and she flashed the card. "I'm going to need to see all of that card," intoned Fat Man 1 behind the counter. She showed him the card. "S?" asked Fat Man 2. "You're not a senior."

"No," explained L, "it's my grandma's. I live with her and I haven't gotten my own beach pass yet. Sorry."

"You know, I could legally take that away from you," threatened Fat Man 1. "You really can't use someone else's beach pass."

L rolled her eyes. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

Sensing a lack of respect for their beach pass policy, Fat Man 2 reached out and took L's beach card and confiscated it, saying that her grandma (who is quite elderly and not allowed to drive) would have to come to the town hall to pick it up. For some reason, probably with their eye on the ferry fee, they permitted us to board and go to the beach anyway, which apparently is a dirty little policy of theirs.

I understand the policy behind keeping non-residents out of Greenwich beaches. It smells a little like discrimination to me, but I am all for a clean beach, littered only by blond children with dumb nicknames (dumb real names?). But the situation has escalated to national security proportions, complete with phone calls to town hall, impassioned pleas to bureaucrats' "better judgment," AND we both got sunburnt. Where is the justice, Greenwich? And why, after this little exercise in absurdity and the full knowledge that I cannot wear pink & green, do I still kinda want to move there?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

It's a family affair

Today is my sister's birthday, a happy occasion that, predictably, has coincided with family drama. It's par for the course that anytime an event needs to be commemorated, somebody has to pick a fight about something. Seating my family at my college graduation was similar to an LSAT logic game (my worst section): "Father cannot sit next to Mother. Sister cannot sit next to Uncle. Uncle and Father cannot sit together. Who has contemplated divorcing their family after one hour together? Answer: A) ME."

The funny thing is that in my life apart from my family relations, I am usually the aggressor in fights. I am belligerent, I don't like admitting when I'm wrong, I am jealous, combative, and cynical, and everything else you'd associate with someone who actually wants to be a litigator. But in my family, somehow, my appointed role is the peacemaker. I get to explain people to each other, advise them, try to assuage hurt feelings, and generally keep everyone civil - you know, the usual ADR shit. Owen Fiss, eat my shorts.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

I have seen the most average minds of my generation . . .

Recently I found out that a peripheral acquaintance, R, has decided to go to law school.

To some, this may not seem like a big deal, or perhaps even a laudable decision! But as I have previously remarked, I have to seriously doubt the sanity of anyone who decides at this point in time and space to go to law school. This lovely girl had been working in PR and wasn't feeling intellectually stimulated (go figure), and so she recently quit her job. She has been diligently tanning and drinking ever since, but -- oh no! Now her parents, who have up 'til now passively bankrolled the Murray Hill dream from Long Island, are giving her a hard time. What ever should she do?

I can imagine the thought process: "I could get another job and support myself . . . naaah. How else can I convince Mom and Dad to continue paying my rent so I can spend $250 on going out each and every weekend? OH EUREKA! [angels sing in the background] I can go to LAW SCHOOL. It'll be so much fun! I can keep my ridiculously expensive apartment (or should I move to the dorms? It'll be just like the D Phi E and ZBT houses all over again, or Melrose Place! I could totally get a kegerator!), I can still go out for dinner each and every night, and I can get a new Louis bag to put my books in! I should go shopping for it NOW!"

And perhaps she is right. What better way to convince her parents that she is doing something meaningful with her life than by wasting more of their money on a legal education? I mean, so what if she is already 26? So what if she has absolutely no intention of ever practicing? So what if her sole motivation for this plan is meeting the perfect guy (who could probably be met at the Ginger Man right this very second), marrying him by 3rd year, and then having one or two equally spoiled children, to be raised by illegal Guatemalan workers while she gets her nails done occupationally?

If my parents were willing to finance pretty much anything I wanted to do and all I wanted was to meet a guy, I think I'd rather go to business school. Maybe it's just my law school, but the average guy more closely resembles Woody Allen than Dylan McDermott, and I don't think that their M.O. in b-school is to drag you down to the lowest depths of the human experience, only to build you back up with a B+. Just my two cents.

Clerkships: to dream the impossible dream

So today we got an email from career services about judicial clerkship applications. The email directed us to send them a list of the judges to which we were applying and the other application materials so that they can send them out. Call me crazy, but why the hell would I ever want to involve that office in the application process? I wouldn't trust those people to order my lunch, never mind send out applications. These are the same people who, when asked what I should do to find a job, advised me to "Send a mass mailing to mid-size firms!" (Read: "Get out of my office."), and the same people who either vindictively or negligently pulled my resume from countless resume collect folders. When I did get a couple interviews during fall OCI with big firms, they didn't send my transcript along and my interviewers had to ask me for it. And my grades aren't even that bad. Thanks for the vote of confidence, assholes.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Allow me to re-introduce myself

I have decided to join the blog game (clearly way too late to have any impact) for several reasons. First, and foremost, I'm bored. Second, with all due respect to the "biglaw" blogs out there, I think it may be useful to provide some perspective for the silent majority who still slaves away, but doesn't get the Prada bags or dinner at Daniel. Yeah, that's right, I'm between my second and third years of law school, working at a small firm, making peanuts, and staying later than my summer associate friends at big firms. Which is not to say that all is hopeless and awful - I haven't seen any document review yet, nor will I be expected to sacrifice my firstborn (or the possibility thereof), and generally speaking I don't have to worry about getting hammered at firm events and jumping into sludge (literally and figuratively).

I don't go to a top tier school and I'm not in the top ten percent. Things are a little different around here, and sometimes I'm not sure which format has more serious problems. However you slice it, the law industry sucks, and barely legal is right: there's no substitute for experiencing it yourself. Whenever an incoming 1L asks for my advice, I always begin with, "Call the bursar and find out if your check has been cashed. If not, GET. OUT. NOW." They always laugh and think I'm kidding. Generally I just smile and humor them, but I've never been more serious in my life.

The high points are low, and the low points are really, really low. Consider today's high and low points:

High: "Good job on that memo. Come see me and I'll give you a new project on a survey of how each circuit determines whether claims have been actually litigated for collateral estoppel purposes." (Oh, goody! Can I research that? Can I? Can I?)

Low: Attorney calls on speakerphone and asks for my lawschool Lexis password (unethical, you ask? why, yes it is) and I cannot give it to him. Not because of my ethical scruples, but because my password is "boobs." Sigh.

All this glory because I didn't want to work in PR.
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